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Saving young lives

Two studies conducted in Malawi are reshaping what we know about the root causes of malnutrition

January 30, 2013

Children suffering from severe malnutrition often are treated with a peanut-butter-based food packed with nutrients and calories. The edible paste has significantly lowered mortality rates, but 10 to 15 percent of children who get the therapeutic food still do not recover, and many die. Those who do recover remain at risk for malnutrition and death when treatment stops.

Now, in two separate studies, Washington University researchers report new findings that are likely to change the treatment of malnutrition and the understanding of its root causes. Both studies were conducted in Malawi, an epicenter of severe childhood malnutrition.

More about new findings

Bacteria living in the intestine are an underlying cause of a form of severe acute childhood malnutritionGut microbes at root of severe malnutrition in kids

A study of young twins shows that bacteria that live in the intestine conspire with a poor diet to trigger severe malnutrition. The findings suggest that simply feeding malnourished children more food may not make them healthy. More »

Severely malnourished children are far more likely to recover and survive when given antibiotics along with a therapeutic peanut-butter-based foodAntibiotics cut death rates for malnourished children

Giving severely malnourished children antibiotics in addition to a fortified peanut-butter paste cut death rates by up to 44% compared to the therapeutic food alone, according to a study by Washington University physicians. More »